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Mexican soldiers tortured 4 crime suspects, UN agency says

FILE - In this Thursday, July 3, 2014, file photo, state police stand inside a warehouse where a black cross covers a wall near blood stains on the ground, after a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. It was confirmed on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, that a Mexican judge ruled that there is insufficient evidence to try four of the seven soldiers charged in the case of 22 suspects killed in 2014, some of whom were apparently shot after they surrendered.  (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

FILE - In this Thursday, July 3, 2014, file photo, state police stand inside a warehouse where a black cross covers a wall near blood stains on the ground, after a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. It was confirmed on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, that a Mexican judge ruled that there is insufficient evidence to try four of the seven soldiers charged in the case of 22 suspects killed in 2014, some of whom were apparently shot after they surrendered. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)  ((AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File))

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has found that Mexican soldiers tortured four men they detained as crime suspects in a northern state in 2009.

A Mexican human rights group, which announced the ruling Friday, said it was the first time the U.N. committee issued a decision on an individual case in Mexico.

The committee's decision calls for release of the four men, who have been jailed since 2009 on charges of kidnapping, weapons possession and auto theft. It also demands an investigation of the torture of the four and prosecution of those found responsible. It found the Mexican government violated the convention against torture.

Mexico's government had contested the admissibility of case. It has 90 days to respond. A request for comment to the Ministry of Foreign Relations was not immediately answered Friday.

According to the U.N. finding, the four men were detained June 16, 2009, in Playas de Rosarito in Baja California state and were beaten and electrocuted. Three were taken together outside a hotel. After they were beaten and interrogated, soldiers picked up a fourth man in the street who they accused of being a lookout.

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All four were taken to two houses where beatings and interrogation continued and then eventually were moved to an army base in the border city of Tijuana. They were paraded in front of journalists as a band of kidnappers. Later at the base, they were beaten, suffocated with plastic bags to the point of losing consciousness and had toenails pulled out.

They were told a detective would come the following day to take their statements admitting to kidnapping. They were held at the base for four days.

All four were charged with kidnapping, weapons possession and auto theft. They are held in a prison in the western state of Nayarit.

José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, executive director of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, a non-governmental organization representing the men, said Friday that the U.N. decision was an opportunity for Mexico's government "to show that in this country there is the will to comply with international, constitutional obligations in the area of human rights."

Mayra López, the sister and lawyer for one of the men, Ramiro López, said her brother lost hearing in one ear as the result of the beatings. She called the committee's decision "excellent."

On Wednesday during a visit to Mexico, the United Nations' top human rights official called on the government to work quickly to withdraw the military from law enforcement duties.

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